Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Athletes who excel are talented—but, they are also trained. There are many skilled athletes that are not successful athletes. Winners are workers—they train for triumph. The Apostle Paul uses this truth to illustrate spiritual success. Every child of God has the potential for victory because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Despite this, we can see that few excel in their spiritual race. Why? We must work out what God works in. The Apostle lists three essentials in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for excelling in our efforts.
We must have DRIVE. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” (v.24) You cannot be content with a participation ribbon—you must have the drive to attain the championship trophy! Don’t be happy with being on the track—strive for triumph! Paul had that kind of passion. He was a man who was driven. There was no half-heartedness about him. How driven are you in the things of God? Apathy is affecting many in the church—and it is appalling. We have the potential to shake the world and shape our culture, but instead we are shaky about what we believe and the culture is shaping us! What will rekindle our passion for Christ? Take a trip to Calvary. Kneel at the cross. See the puddles of blood. Look up into the eyes of love. Stay there until your heart is ignited with a renewed zeal for Him who gave His all that you might give your all!
We must also have DIRECTION. “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” (v.25-26) The athlete who wins looks beyond the present price of training for the prospective prize of winning. Playing football in high school demanded two-a-day practices in full pads under the hot sun of August. The toil was meant to toughen us as we looked forward to walking off the field in victory later. We listened and learned from our coaches’ direction. The Christian life is to be lived with purpose. Paul says that he is running for the goal—his eyes fixed on the prize. He isn’t engaged in shadow boxing, but has put on the gloves, climbed into the ring, and has his eyes fixed on the enemy in front of him—to deliver a knockout to the Devil!
Finally, we must have DISCIPLINE. “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (v.27) You must practice the principles of training in order to triumph. Let me suggest a few.
- · EAT RIGHT. A daily intake of God’s Word provides the needful nutrition for spiritual vitality. Refuse to consume the world’s junk-food that harms you.
- · BREATHE RIGHT. A championship athlete expands his or her lung capacity in order to have stamina. As you pray consistently, exhale your sin by confession, and inhale God’s power by faith.
- · WORK OUT. You can’t develop muscle by being a coach potato—or a pew potato! Get busy serving Christ and sharing your faith!